The baby of her large family, who lived with several medical issues she’d dealt with since childhood, Lei-Ala Turner was doted on by her parents and siblings.
One of the 30-year-old Lawrence woman’s favorite things to do was socialize with relatives and her close friends, mother Nadra Turner of Lawrence said. She was a "selfie queen" and often did a few "warm-up" dance moves before going out, which always made her mother laugh.
“Lei was a party person,” her mother said. “Everybody was her friend.”
That’s what Lei-Ala Turner was doing the night she was killed, family said, by a bullet reportedly fired accidentally — but recklessly.
Turner was fatally shot shortly after 11 p.m. Dec. 27 at 2310 W. 26th St., the August Place Apartments in south Lawrence.
Responding officers found Turner with a single gunshot wound to the chest, which initial information indicated may have been accidental, according to police. Police said the following morning they had identified a suspect, and 27-year-old Lawrence resident Willie K. Franklin was arrested late Dec. 31.
Franklin is charged in Douglas County District Court with one count of involuntary manslaughter, for allegedly “recklessly” killing Turner, according to charges. He also is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, less than 10 years after a conviction for cocaine possession.
That night, Turner was at her older sister’s apartment, where a group of her relatives and friends were partying and planning to go out, said Turner’s brother Armond Enclarde, of Lawrence.
Franklin, a longtime close acquaintance of the family, had a gun he was handling and showing at the gathering, Enclarde said witnesses told him. Enclarde said Franklin cleared the chamber of the gun — or so he thought — then took the clip out. Mistakenly believing there was no bullet left, he squeezed the trigger and shot Turner, Enclarde said.
“He didn’t treat it like the weapon it was — a deadly weapon,” Enclarde said.
Turner’s memorial service is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home.
On Friday, her mother and extended family members from Louisiana began gathering and cooking — shrimp creole, mustard greens and gumbo in huge quantities — at Enclarde’s Lawrence home. More relatives from out-of-state were on the way.
Born into an Army family in Fort Polk, La., Turner grew up and graduated from high school in Colorado Springs, Colo. She moved to Lawrence in 2011 and later graduated from cosmetology school here.
Relatives said she always kept her makeup to a minimum, but specialized in doing hair.
Turner was born with a cleft palate, and underwent multiple surgeries for it, according to her family. She also had a heart murmur and problems with seizures that began when she was just a year old. In addition, she had severe asthma that had caused her lungs to collapse, twice.
Several years ago, she was in a serious car accident that left her with broken bones and laid up for more than a month.
As the baby of the family, Turner was spoiled, her brother said. He said she was known for being friendly, funny and fun-loving, but those medical struggles showed her other side.
She was resilient, he said, “very resilient.”
Turner was also more reserved when it came to strangers, Enclarde said.
“She was confident around her friends and family,” he said, but less so around strangers because a speech impediment made her difficult to understand and she hated having to repeat herself.
In Turner’s funeral program, her family wrote: “Lei was easily lovable and you could always find her with a smile on her face, ready to have fun! Once you were her friend, you were her friend until the end.”
Turner’s death was the 10th homicide of 2017 in Douglas County, and the sixth investigated by Lawrence police for the year.
There is a GoFundMe page to help cover her funeral expenses, online at gofundme.com/leialaturnermemorial.